8 Jun 2014

CORRESPONDENT - Stephen Hewson

1:06 pm on 8 June 2014

Allegations of match-fixing reached a crescendo this week with leaks, headlines, and charges laid. NZ cricket captain Brendon McCullum's Christchurch news conference on Thursday marked a pivotal moment in the saga.

Brendon McCullum.

Brendon McCullum. Photo: RNZ / Patrick Phelps

The cheeky smile wasn't there. Neither was the hint of swagger or the 'bring it on' attitude that he usually exudes. Instead they were replaced by a thousand yard stare and a sombre tone.

Perhaps it was because he'd just got off a long haul flight from India, but the stress on New Zealand Cricket captain Brendon McCullum was evident.

McCullum was speaking publicly for the first time since the leaking of his testimony to the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit.

A media conference is usually an environment McCullum finds comfortable, but during Thursday's event in Christchurch his body language showed he clearly wasn't anything of the sort.

McCullum had left the Indian Premier League competition early to return home to be with his wife for the birth of their third child.

He expressed his disappointment over his testimony being leaked to the English media, but said he stood by everything he said and had no regrets.

The leaked testimony described McCullum receiving an approach in 2008 from a player - who he's previously described as a hero of the game - to fix a match.

McCullum rejected it and subsequently reported the incident to the ICC.

It was right for McCullum to front, there were obviously plenty of questions to be answered - even if McCullum was hamstrung by what he could say because of the ongoing investigation or the legal ramifications.

But being whisked in and out, flanked by New Zealand Cricket CEO David White and Players Association head Heath Mills, and answering only half a dozen questions, left reporters wanting.

White was running the show and bristled when McCullum was asked about the timeframe between being approached to match-fix and reporting it to the ICC.

With McCullum about to answer and saying he was happy to do so, White leapt in.

"The ICC are very comfortable with the way he has conducted himself and the way he has answered the questions...okay one more question," White said.

A tell-tale roll of the eyes from McCullum suggested he was far from comfortable with the way the news conference was unfolding.

He appeared shackled. His approach, like his batting, is usually to the point, with no messing around. He has an opinion and is generally not afraid to share it.

White on the other hand appears uncomfortable in the spotlight, becomes defensive quickly on matters cricket, and can take any critical questioning as a personal affront.

But White and McCullum clearly do share common ground over the glacial speed at which the ICC's investigation is proceeding.

It's the only area White was prepared to criticise the ICC over, and with the investigation likely to drag on for another 12-18 months it's set to be still running through next year's World Cup - to be jointly hosted by New Zealand and Australia.

White has pointed out the match-fixing problem largely relates to domestic Twenty20 competitions around the world rather than international matches. The latter come under much greater scrutiny, meaning the opportunities to spot-fix are greatly lessened.

"In regard to the World Cup, Australia has got legislation in place and recently New Zealand has as well, which criminalises match-fixing and corruption as well, so I am very comfortable we have got controls in New Zealand to address those issues."

While White believes New Zealand has its house in order, the leaking of the testimony of not only McCullum but also Lou Vincent calls into question the credibility of the ICC investigation.

McCullum was asked if he still had faith in the ICC and its investigation. What he didn't say was more telling than what he did.

"From the dealings with the group that I have dealt with (at the ICC) I have confidence in those people."

Confidence in the ICC as an organisation may be another matter.

There's no doubt that making headway in the murky underworld of match-fixing and illegal bookmaking takes time, but the ICC is fast running out of time. It cannot afford to let its investigation run for another year and a half.

Cricket's governing body already has a credibility problem and if the investigation doesn't come to a head sooner rather than later, the credibility of the game itself could soon disappear.

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